Exclusive – Rep. Holding: IRS Program Turns Taxpayers into Audit ‘Guinea Pigs’

FILE- In this Thursday, May 19, 2016, file photo, Rep. George Holding speaks during the 2nd Congressional District Republican primary debate at WRAL studio in Raleigh, N.C. The most watched race in the congressional primaries on Tuesday, June 7, is the 2nd District GOP, where two sitting members of Congress …
Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP, Pool, File

Last June, House Republicans and the Ways and Means Committee unveiled our blueprint for bold, pro-growth comprehensive tax reform.

Reshuffling the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is a major part of that plan to fix our broken tax code.

Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) has been clear this part of the blueprint would “redesign the IRS into an agency with a singular mission: Service First.”

I could not agree more. Taxpayers deserve an IRS that is responsive, transparent, and above all, accountable.

To achieve this, we need to look top-to-bottom at the IRS to make the reforms necessary to restore the public’s lost faith in the agency.

One IRS program worth closer examination and reform is the National Research Program (NRP).

The NRP was set up to determine the tax gap – the difference between what taxpayers should have paid and how much was actually paid – by subjecting individuals and businesses, chosen at random, for audits.

In determining the tax gap and identifying improvements to ensure compliance, the IRS should seek to minimize the burden placed on those who have done nothing but be chosen at random.

An audit by the IRS is any taxpayer’s worst nightmare – but even more so if it occurs “randomly.”

More alarming, however, is that Nina Olson, head of the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate, charged with keeping an eye on things inside the IRS for taxpayers defended the program, even as she called the NRP “tormenting” and referred to those who get pulled into this program as “guinea pigs.”

Innocent taxpayers were harmed and this is wrong.

The IRS and the National Taxpayer Advocate both work for the American taxpayer. Not the other way around.

As we move into the 115th Congress, reforms to programs like the NRP and the Office of the National Taxpayer Advocate are exactly what we need to consider as Congress reorients the IRS into an agency that focuses on serving the taxpayer.

George Holding is a Member of Congress who represents North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District and serves on the House Ways and Means Committee.